n this penultimate lesson Bernard uses various examples, such as Students facing challenging situations and resolving them harmoniously, to emphasise the importance of co-operating with the Divine Spirit within us in very practical ways.
THE “PRACTICAL LIFE” SECTION
LESSON TWENTY-FIVE: CO-OPERATION
This is a very important aspect of faith and it needs to be considered daily, in the ordinary problems of life. God IS. God’s Spirit indwells us. Therefore we must co-operate with God’s indwelling Spirit consciously and continuously.
A Student wrote: “I feel I am quite the slowest and most stupid of all your Students. I am so regretful and so sad that I seem such a failure. However, I really think I am ‘getting going’ at last. I love reading your ‘News’ and the wonderful achievements of your Students and I do pray that my faith will become so strong that I also may be blessed like that. Don’t despair of me, dear friend, I implore you. My love to all at your shining Centre of Light and Love.”
My reply was: “Well! What an ‘affirmation’ and what a ‘decree’ with which to begin your letter. You tell me you are ‘slow’, stupid’ and ‘a failure’! Now suppose you start to remember the glorious fact that you have God’s Spirit actually living in you? Then you should say: ‘I have forgotten God – how slow and stupid of me. No wonder I failed! Now I am going to remember Him and be swift, bright, successful.’ I never ‘despair’, believe me – neither of anything nor anybody, so I am completely unimpressed with your doleful remarks! Just you be too, and all will be well.”
A Student wrote: “The recent months seem to take more out of me. I have tried to take walks in the evenings and to get away and build up – shall we call it ‘patience’, which is sometimes not all it should be. At my most trying times I nearly always manage to pause, and to send a little prayer for help and guidance. Never are my prayers not answered. I wonder, after, just why I do not ask before things get out of hand.”
In reply I wrote: “Yes, you are right. The thing to do is for us to ask, and consciously receive and co-operate with, divine help in every minute of our lives. Then we are ready for any emergency.”
A Student wrote: “I asked the authorities in command, to let me have my dearly beloved niece home with me for Christmas, and they flatly refused. So I wrote again, in the meantime asking the Great Power, our heavenly Father, for help. They changed their minds and the official of this district was sent to see me, saying Ann could come to me for a few days at Christmas.”
My comment is: “Now let me tell you exactly what I had to do with this matter. The Student wrote to me as she had that refusal and told me how disappointed she was. At once I wrote to tell her how to get the right attitude of mind towards the official. I pointed out that he was concerned, first and foremost, with Ann’s welfare; that was his job. Therefore, for some reason he sincerely thought it would be better for Ann to stay in the children’s Home. Now – what could be that reason? I advised the Student to accept the official in her mind, as a friend, and believe that he really had Ann’s welfare at heart. Then to write and ask in a friendly way what his reason for refusing was, and to say that she would be willing to co-operate with any suggestions he could offer. That put an entirely new train of thought into the Student’s mind. She linked in harmony with the official – and she is now to have her heart’s desire.”
A somewhat similar thing happened to a Student a few weeks previous to this. She wrote to me in great distress. She is a teacher, and having to bring up her boy and girl alone; and she was summoned to meet the headmaster because her boy had misbehaved himself rather seriously at his school. She was full of fear about the interview, but once more I put a different train of thought into her mind. I pointed out that the headmaster had the boy’s welfare at heart too, and that he was therefore her friend. I advised her to go to the interview calmly, determined to ask him to help her, especially because the boy had no father to care for and guide him. ‘Co-operate with the headmaster’, I wrote, ‘and all will be well.’
Presently she wrote that, though the headmaster has a name for being rather difficult, he was understanding and friendly. The misbehaviour was not nearly so bad as she feared – and the headmaster promised to give an eye to the boy.
Still another instance happened to a Student who lives in a caravan. The farmer who owns the field on which the caravan stands, had a slight disagreement with him and asked him to leave. Instead of getting into a panic, he thought built for a happy solution – and within a few days the farmer called to make up the disagreement and to say he had changed his mind and the caravan could stay.
So you see, it is our own attitude of mind which plays a very large part in the circumstances of our lives. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that someone who opposes us is an enemy, let us firstly try to see his point of view, try to see if we can meet in friendship and come to an arrangement for mutual advantage. It does pay, doesn’t it?
THE DIVINE SPIRIT INDWELLING
Here is an article reprinted from a former copy of B.W.N. This article was written years ago, and the clergyman concerned finally left “in a huff”, I am sorry to say. However, the majority of them are sincere and I think this one was too, in his own limited way. Well, this is what I wrote at that time.
I am at present having a spirited correspondence with a clergyman. He asked me to “pray hard” for him that he might win the girl he loved, get a debt repaid and get the house he wanted, but when I pointed out that just words of mine were useless without his thought building in faith, he became angry. Why should I write to him as though he were ten instead of fifty-one? (I spoke of the childlike spirit of the Master.) And he “detested celibacy” and was “up the pole with nerves “. He ended by hoping, after getting this “off his chest”, that I would be “kind and helpful” Oh, if there was ever a little child of the kingdom needing comfort and help, here is one. But one cannot force this childlike spirit and how hardly the “rich in intellect ” enter the kingdom. What he needs is co-operation with the Divine Spirit indwelling him.
THE MYSTERY AND MAGIC
“THEY CONTINUED STEADFASTLY IN THE APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE AND FELLOWSHIP AND MANY WONDERS AND SIGNS WERE DONE BY THE APOSTLES.” (Acts 2, 42-43.)
One of the memories that have remained with me since childhood is the blissful evening I once spent, watching a conjuring exhibition. The hall was crowded, the lights were shining brilliantly on to the stage, the conjuror in his dress suit looked very smart and attractive, and beside him was a table with all kinds of mysterious-looking gadgets on it. The only trick I recall in detail, was this – the conjuror asked a man in the audience to stand up. When he did so, he was asked: “Will you catch this coil of rope if I throw it?” “Certainly”, said the man. The conjuror paused, threw the rope – and as the man in the audience caught it, it changed into a bunch of flowers! Of course, the audience was enthralled.
No doubt there was quite a simple explanation, but it was mystery and magic to us!
Why, I wonder, are we inclined to be so stodgy about the mystery and magic of religion? Surely the “signs and wonders” those early apostles did must have enthralled the people? Men who were crippled were made to stand and walk, the deaf heard, the blind saw – even articles that some of the apostles had touched were carried round to the people that their vibration might convey a blessing. Then why is religion a thing to be so reserved about, to be so solemn and silent about? Where are the wonder-workers now?
Perhaps you, my Students, may be thinking: “All this has come about because we have lost these powers”. But remember that it needed more than human power to bring about these miracles. Jesus Himself, before healing a man said: “Believest thou that I am able to do this?” And we read that He did not do many wonders in His own district “because of their unbelief”. So you see, we cannot entirely blame others for not having the power. If we look upon religion as a dull, uninteresting or “Sundays Only” affair, if we are not interested in the magic and mystery of it, how can we “complete the circuit” of power, and send it sweeping round the world?
This morning in the bright autumn sunshine we went for a walk. We chose a favourite summer-picnic spot this time, where we used to sit by the river, under the shade of the over-hanging trees. This river was our objective, for we wanted to see what it looked like now. It was lovely – the water rushed deeply and noisily over the great, mossy boulders and Simon, who plunged in, was swept sideways by the current and had to swim to the bank. Well, on our way back we passed the farmer who owns all this beautiful land. He was wheeling his cycle, with a huge milk-churn tied to one side. We stopped to talk awhile. You do look well “, he commented. “Happy, too”, I agreed.
“So should I be if I had not my work to do”, he explained. “Why, you would be miserable!”
I assured him “The happiest life is a useful one.” I went on to tell him that I had been so thrilled and interested in the work I had been doing last Friday night that I had continued until two in the morning! “Hard work and work that you love”, I told him, “and loving everybody and every thing in all the world, and wanting to make everyone happy – that’s the best kind of life.” And wasn’t that farmer enthralled! He kept trying to detain us by calling questions to us as we made to walk, on (for we had some potatoes baking in the oven) until at last I said: “That is all for today”.
Let us be happy about religion, then, seeing the mystery and wonder of it and so helping others to see it too!
Is there, Lord, divided water,
Drop by drop the ocean spread?
Does the air retain a cleavage,
Pause, or filter on ahead?
No; these things are one, my Master;
Nought can separate nor cut-
Flood my heart, then, with Thy loving
And each sad division shut!
Art Thou lonely, Heavenly Lover,
‘Midst the world’s divided hearts?
Come and make Thy home within me,
Strengthen all the weakened parts;
That I may be only for Thee,
Thou, the Centre of my soul,
Thou my Love, and I Thine wholly
And this be my only goal!
Home is where my Father is
Within my inmost being.
Home is where my Father is,
Where angels sing or laugh or weep…
he thoughtless world goes to and fro
On pleasure bent, or else to creep Into some ‘haven’ dark and drear-
Yet all the while, low, sweet and clear
The Father calls His children
Beloved, let me be like Thee!
Let me see in Thee A mirror clear,
Let Thy son draw near
To Thy image fair-
So, hushed, I may dare
To aspire to Thy purity!
Beloved, let my every word
Be said for Thee;
Let my voice and eyes
Be for my Lord;
Let my hands and feet
Be Thine, O Master wise;
All Thine, my Master sweet!
Open Thou my listening ear,
That in music, sweet and fair,
That in fingers touching keys
I may hear Thee, low and clear.
Hear Thy breathing in the air,
Hear Thy whispered ‘Have no care.’
Hear the beauty of Thy song,
And in listening, may grow strong!